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Tom Prydie to become Wales' youngest Test player

RBS SIX NATIONS: Wales v Italy
Venue: Millennium Stadium Date: Saturday, 20 March Kick-off: 1430 GMT
Coverage: Watch on BBC One, BBC HD channel, Red Button and BBC Sport website; full commentary on BBC Radio 5 live, BBC Radio Wales and BBC Radio Cymru; live text commentary on BBC Sport website and mobiles


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Prydie stunned with Wales start

Ospreys wing Tom Prydie will become Wales' youngest rugby international against Italy on Saturday in their final 2010 RBS Six Nations clash.

The 18-year-old, who has started just two senior games, replaces Leigh Halfpenny in a team showing five changes from their loss in Ireland.

Flanker Martyn Williams is dropped for 21-year-old open-side Sam Warburton.

Captain Ryan Jones returns from injury as do fellow British and Irish Lions Gethin Jenkins and Mike Phillips.

Number eight Gareth Delve and loose-head prop Paul James drop to the bench, while scrum-half Richie Rees is omitted from the 22 altogether, with Dwayne Peel retained on the bench.

Gatland explains Wales selection

Pryde, who has just will break Cardiff player Norman Biggs' 112-year record and become Wales' youngest player by 24 days.

Fellow wing Biggs made his Wales debut aged 18 years and 49 days in 1888 against New Zealand Natives, but Prydie will be 18 years and 25 days on Saturday.

"[Wales coach] Warren [Gatland] called all the boys in to announce the team... I wasn't taking much notice because I wasn't really expecting to play," Prydie, who has just 167 minutes of senior rugby to his name, told BBC Sport Wales.

Archive: Prydie saves Swansea RFC

"I didn't quite hear the team and had Lee Byrne stamping on my foot and nudging me. I said 'What are you doing?' and he said 'you're on the wing'! I was just shaking, I couldn't believe it.

"I'll have to switch on this week! I didnt think I'd even be selected in the squad, that I was just here for the future... this is just unbelievable, a dream come true."

Prydie, who will overtake England's Mathew Tait as the youngest Six Nations player, also made history as the youngest player to play in Europe when - aged just 17 - he made his Heineken Cup bow in December for the Ospreys against Viadana.

"Tom has been with us for the duration of the campaign, he was one of two youngsters - brought in alongside Kristian Phillips - who we wanted to have a look at and we've been impressed with him," said Wales coach Warren Gatland.

606: DEBATE

"We heard some good things about him from his region and from the coaches at under 18s level and he has lived up to that.

"We are not sure if Leigh Halfpenny is going to be able to tour this summer as he may need an operation and we also need to look at our options for the future and find someone to push the incumbents for the World Cup.

"There are one or two players out at the regions who will also be on the radar, but this is a great opportunity for Tom.

"He is the fastest player in the squad, he can play at full-back as well as on the wing, and he is not afraid to tackle, so we'll see how he goes."

Ryan Jones returns as captain to win his 40th cap after recovering from a calf problem, despite a solid first Six Nations start from Delve in last Saturday's 27-12 defeat by Ireland.

Gethin Jenkins and Ryan Jones could return against Italy
Gethin Jenkins and Ryan Jones return

Jenkins also returns from a calf injury at loose-head to be reunited with hooker Matthew Rees and tight-head Adam Jones for the first time since the Lions' second Test in South Africa last summer.

Jenkins was on the field for just six minutes as a second-half replacement against Scotland when he limped off - and did not feature in the next two defeats against France and Ireland.

Phillips starts his first Welsh game for 12 months after suffering a knee problem in his first game back for the Ospreys last month, following a serious ankle injury.

Locks Bradley Davies and Luke Charteris have recovered from shoulder and knee problems respectively to retain their places in the second row.

Martyn Williams, who led Wales at Croke Park in Jones' absence, has gone from captain to outcast in the space of seven days.

The 34-year-old flanker, capped 95 times, is dropped just days after breaking Wales' Test appearance record for a forward.

"We have an eye on the future as well with the selection of Sam Warburton in the back row, but both players [along with Prydie] come into the side alongside players who will also add experience and leadership," added Gatland.

"At scrum-half we are conscious that we need three players to all be pushing each other for a starting place and we have been happy with what we have seen from Richie Rees this tournament.

"Dwayne is being given another chance, we want him to make an impact from the bench and improve on his showing last time out."

We are under no illusion that Italy will be a tough prospect on Saturday

Warren Gatland

Gatland had hinted at making a "stance" on Wales' indiscipline following Lee Byrne's yellow card in Dublin, but the Lions full-back retains his place.

Stephen Jones will beat Neil Jenkins' Welsh fly-half appearance record by winning his 88th cap.

Wales and Italy have only won one game each in this year's Six Nations - both against bottom-team Scotland.

But they are unlikely to suffer the humiliation of picking up the Wooden Spoon, unless the Scots - who only have one point to their name - upset Ireland in Dublin.

"We are under no illusion that Italy will be a tough prospect on Saturday," added Gatland.

"We found it hard to break them down here two years ago and they have performed well in each game of the tournament so far. With a good win over Scotland under their belts we will be a target for them.

"We are all very disappointed and we need to demonstrate our passion and pride in the Welsh jersey on Saturday and show everyone what it means to us to play for our country."


Wales team to face Italy on Saturday:
Lee Byrne (Ospreys); Tom Prydie (Ospreys); James Hook (Ospreys), Jamie Roberts (Cardiff Blues); Shane Williams (Ospreys); Stephen Jones (Llanelli Scarlets), Michael Phillips (Ospreys); Gethin Jenkins (Cardiff Blues), Matthew Rees (Llanelli Scarlets), Adam Jones (Ospreys), Bradley Davies (Cardiff Blues), Luke Charteris (Dragons), Jonathan Thomas (Ospreys), Sam Warburton (Cardiff Blues), Ryan Jones (capt, Ospreys).
Replacements: Huw Bennett, Paul James, Ian Gough, Gareth Delve, Dwayne Peel, Andrew Bishop, Tom Shanklin.

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see also
Gatland promises pain for Wales
15 Mar 10 |  Welsh
Williams intends to defy critics
15 Mar 10 |  Welsh
Wales ponder discipline 'stance'
13 Mar 10 |  Welsh
Ireland 27-12 Wales
13 Mar 10 |  Rugby Union
France 46-20 Italy
14 Mar 10 |  Rugby Union
Prydie's shock at Wales call-up
20 Jan 10 |  Welsh
Teenager Prydie impresses Ospreys
06 Aug 09 |  Welsh
Italian rugby songs
13 Aug 07 |  Welsh
Six Nations table
10 Aug 06 |  Tables
Wales' rugby fixtures
26 Jun 07 |  Welsh
Wales rugby results archive
15 Oct 03 |  Welsh
Coming up next on Scrum V...
03 Nov 08 |  Welsh
BBC Sport Wales coverage
03 Oct 11 |  Wales


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